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Friday, 14 June 2013
Luke Donald  (Getty Images)
Luke Donald (Getty Images)
Luke Donald holds a one shot lead after the first day of the US Open Championship, where Phil Mickelson set the clubhouse pace on a weather-affected opening day.

Fresh from a cross-country plane journey, five-time runner-up Mickelson made the perfect start at Merion, but was usurped late in the day when Donald had a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th.

The Englishman will return early on Friday to complete the final five holes of his first round, after more than four hours of play were lost to storms in Pennsylvania.

“I birdied my last three holes, 11, 12, 13. Those are kind of the holes you want to make an easy score if you can,” said Donald.

“Obviously the weather conditions are making the course a lot softer, and you can attack the pins a little bit more. It's playing as gentle as it might play so far, and obviously this afternoon not much wind. 

“If you were going to make a score, today was a good day. I've obviously got five holes left and five pretty tough ones to finish, but really happy with the way I started my round. I'm excited to get off to a great start.

“I feel like I'm in pretty good control of my game, and it's nice to get off to such a good start.”

Mickelson had flown home to California on Monday after torrential rain saw the course closed in mid-afternoon, and then attended his daughter's eighth-grade graduation on Wednesday afternoon before flying back in time for his 7:11am tee time on Thursday morning.

He landed in Philadelphia at 3:30am in his private jet and was at the course at 5:40am, only to start his round from the 11th with a three-putt bogey.

However, he birdied the 13th and was level par when a thunderstorm and torrential rain caused play to be suspended for more than three and a half hours, and when it did resume the four-time major winner picked up birdies at the first, seventh and ninth to card an opening three under par 67.

"If I'm able, and I believe I will, to ultimately win a US Open, I would say that it's great," Mickelson said of his relationship with the tournament. "Because I will have had let's say a win and five seconds. But if I never get that win, then it would be a bit heart-breaking."

Mickelson's daughter Amanda was born the day after his first second place in the US Open at Pinehurst in 1999, where he wore a beeper on the course during the final round in case his wife went into labour.

He revealed she knew "a little bit" about her part in the drama and that she had quoted Ron Burgundy from the film Anchorman in her speech at the graduation ceremony.

"She told me stay, it's the US Open, I know how much you care about it," said Mickelson, who has five wedges but no driver in his bag this week.

"And I told her that I want to be there. I don't want to miss that. I don't want to miss her speech, I don't want to miss her graduation. She spent nine years at that school, she's worked very hard and I'm very proud of her.

"She did a great job and she even quoted Ron Burgundy, so it was funny. The ceremony was at 6pm. I got on the plane at 8pm, landed 3:30am. I had a couple of hours sleep on the plane, an hour before we teed off and an hour during the break. I feel great.

"This is not that out of the ordinary, I do this about six to ten times a year where I fly back east (on the) red eye, play some outing and then come home.

"When I was here (Merion) the week before I was able to do all the work I needed, the last part was getting my game sharp so being able to do that in nice weather on a good practice facility was advantageous."

Masters Tournament winner Adam Scott, playing with World Numbers One and Two Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, was level with Mickelson with seven holes to play, one ahead of defending champion Webb Simpson.

Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts was second in the clubhouse following a 69 – The Ryder Cup star had made a flying start with two birdies in his first four holes and then recovered from three bogeys in five holes from the first to birdie the seventh and eighth.

Lee Westwood, seeking his first Major title at the 61st attempt, had been three under after 11 holes, but saw his third to the par four 12th hit the wicker basket which is used instead of a standard flag and bounce back off the green, leading to a double bogey six.

McIlroy was level par after 11 and Woods two over, with play scheduled to resume at 7:15am on Friday.

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